The sister city relationship between Sebastopol and Chyhyryn will be strengthened as Sebastopol World Friends prepares to host five delegates from that Ukrainian city for a two-week cultural exchange program focusing on domestic violence.
Val Churma of Sebastopol World Friends (SWF) said the Chyhyryn delegates to the Open World program are meeting in Washington, D.C. before coming to Sebastopol for a stay from Sept. 23 to Oct. 9. SWF is looking for local families with appropriate accommodations to host the five delegates and an interpreter.
In Sonoma County, Ukrainian delegates and their SWF hosts will be meeting with agencies that are involved with domestic violence, prevention, prosecution and support services for victims, Churma said. “They also meet with elected officials to learn about accountable governance and how our democracy works,” she added.
The upcoming visit is a follow-up to one in April when seven adults from SWF went to Chyhyrun to reconnect with past Open World delegates and other friends and to organize an active sister city committee in Chyhyryn. SWF will work with this committee to collaborate on future exchanges.
Sebastopol and Chyhyryn have been sister cities since 1993. Since that time there have been numerous exchanges of adults and students and projects promoting education, environment, volunteerism, NGO development and government.
Delegates from the region of Chyhyryn are young adult leaders between 22 and 36 years old. Open World is a congressionally sponsored program that brings emerging leaders from post-Soviet countries to the U.S. The theme of this year’s delegation is “Combating Domestic Violence.”
SWF has been granted an extra week past the usual 10-day Open World program in order to offer visitors extra cultural activities and fuller local flavor to the program.
Churma said that while SWF is organizing weekday activities, the delegates staying with host families would be with them most evenings and weekends.
“Most visitors share that, in fact, this is the highlight of their whole experience,” Churma said. “No other travel experience can compare to being taken in as part of a family and no other way of relating can teach us so much about one another.”
Families interested in hosting a delegate from Chyhyryn can contact Churma at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a SWF report to the city council this week, Churma said the group is also raising funds to send a shipment of much needed medical supplies and equipment to the hospital in Chyhyryn in partnership with Project CURE, a nonprofit that collects medical donations for health clinics and hospitals in the developing world. With help from the Analy High School Theater Arts program and other community donors, SWF has raised about $10,000 but needs another $20,000 to pay for the cost of shipping the cargo container and ground transportation. Donations can be made on the SWF website at www.sebastopolwf.org or by check to Project C.U.R.E. with UA-15-109 on the memo line and mailed to Sebastopol World Friends, P.O. Box 976, Sebastopol, CA 95473. Donations are tax deductible.
— Submitted by Val Churma